In a recent post, we wrote that the U.S. House of Representatives would soon be voting on the FACT Act, which in an acronym for "Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency." Unfortunately, that vote has now come and gone and the measure passed in the House.
Asbestos victim advocates are generally not interested in partisan politics. They merely want justice for individuals who have been sickened and killed by this deadly dust.
But in last week's House vote, the role of partisanship could not be overlooked. House Democrats unanimously opposed the FACT Act and even tried to sink it by adding nine amendments, but it nonetheless passed due to support solely from Republicans. This is significant, because passage of the FACT Act may be especially harmful to a group of Americans that Republicans claim to support: veterans.
According to a recent article in Stars and Stripes, up to 30 percent of victims who die of asbestos-related lung cancer are veterans. For these men and women, exposure often occurred during their service, as asbestos was widely used in Navy ships and buildings.
Because the FACT Act would make it even harder for veterans to pursue compensation for asbestos-related diseases, at least 16 national veterans' advocacy groups have spoken out against the bill. These groups say that the FACT Act would lead to undue delays in payment of claims and would increase the risk of identity theft by publishing plaintiffs' personal information online.
Politicians who support the FACT Act claim to be helping asbestos victims by rooting out false claims and other alleged frauds. But there is almost no evidence to support claims that fraud is occurring, much less that fraud is a widespread issue. This bill is, quite simply, a solution in search of a problem.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recently pointed out that the sponsors of this legislation are advocating on behalf of a group, but that group does not include asbestos victims and their families. She said: "These provisions claim to serve transparency. Indeed, the representative's efforts to support asbestos companies and intimidate victims could not be more clear."
President Obama has vowed to veto the bill if it passes both houses of Congress. Hopefully, a veto will not be necessary.